Chapter 6

How to Give Feedback That Helps People Grow

by Monique Valcour

Over the years, I’ve asked hundreds of students in my executive education courses what skills they believe are essential for leaders. “The ability to give tough feedback” comes up frequently. But what exactly is “tough feedback”? The phrase connotes bad news, like when you have to tell a team member that they’ve screwed up on something important. “Tough” also signifies the way we think we need to act when giving negative feedback: firm, resolute, and unyielding.

But the word also points to the discomfort some of us experience when giving negative feedback, and to the challenge of doing so in a way that motivates change instead of making the other person feel defensive. Managers ...

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